Mr Charlie Poulter was born in 1902, and was interviewed on 11 March 1977, when he lived at 111 Cressing Road, Witham.
For more information about him and the Poulter family, see the the notes in the People category headed Poulter family.
The original recording of this interview is held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To listen to the recording, please contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or 033301 32500.
[???] shows words that are not clear enough to interpret and so have had to be omitted.
[?] after a word shows that its interpretation is not certain.
Later explanatory additions by JG or the transcriber are in square brackets [e.g. explaining locations etc.]
Q: How long did you do that for?
Mr P: Oh, it’s only like when I go out.
Q: All the same, it’s nice to remember things isn’t it? How long did you do that for?
Mr P: Oh, I don’t, it’s only like when I go out, anyway I take a, take me cine camera and take some, you know, as, or take pictures of carnival and one thing and another.
Q: I remember you taking a picture of the carnival when I was on the float?
Mr P: Oh, yes I’ve got that on one (Q: I’ve never seen that.) Yes.
Q: How long have you had it for, the cine?
Mr P: I can remember that (Q: Can you?), yes, this, weren’t much more than a dirt road, you know, no proper paths, that was a college what was the old cinema [tall pale building on the left, now no.18]. I do know that, well, my mother was cook there for a time. (Q: What, at the college?) At the college, yes, that was called Whitehall College. The headmaster’s name was Dimmock, Mr Dimmock. She cooked in there part-time.
Well then this, Freebournes [on right, with gables, now no.3], that was a dairy there, they had cows out in the fields at the back and we used to go up there when we was children you know and get skimmed milk, for tuppence a quart, that was all right for making puddings you know, anything like that. And this was a doctor’s house [tall, on right, behind tree, now no.5, High House]. (Q: And that would be what?] Dr Payne lived in that big house, what Stoffer had (Q: Oh, I know it’s a restaurant isn’t it?).
Yea, (Q: I don’t know how old all these are, they’re probably all a bit different, you know.) Well this, this one would be, what [pause], round about seventy year old. (Q: Really. ‘Cos I’ve forgotten how old you are, is that a secret, how old you are?) What? (I’ve forgotten how old you are, is that a secret?) I’m coming up seventy-five. (Are you really, my goodness?)
Q: Was your mother a cook there when you were a boy then, so that you can remember it?
Mr P: Yes, I remember all that, that college.
Q: Did they, was it a boarding ….? People, the kids stayed there, did they?
Mr P: They were boarders, yes, they lived in. Yes, I remember them old iron posts up there but this is a retake. (Q: Yes, it looks newer than it is, doesn’t it, yes. I tell you what some of these ones with the numbers.)
If that was as old as that one, that would look as old as that, but you see this has been a retake. (Q: I think these were postcards that people took.) That was Green’s, the chemist [extreme left with corner door, now no.64]. The old International Stores too, here, look [right, tall, with name, now c.43]. (Q: Yes, that’s been there a while hasn’t it?) Yes [pause] This was a later date too, because of the paths and the road has been done up a bit, not quite so old as that one.
(Q: Because you said, that’s got the Spread Eagle, hasn’t it [on right with gables, now no.49], is it that where you said your father, was it the Spread Eagle where you said your dad had the ….?) The Spread Eagle, yes, in the yard down, through there, go through that archway down the bottom there’s a yard, there’s a, where I was born. (Q: Oh, I see. [Pause] So there was a cottage there too I suppose?).
Used to be baker’s, baker’s cake shop there [on left with white notice, next to low buildings, now no.60], been there for years and years and it changed hands, you know, different people, people named Kuhn, and er I can’t think of the other people took after them, and Pratt, that was the name of some people what had it.
And this is another older one [Looking at photo] (Q: What, because of the road?) Very old by the children, you know, I should imagine they stand there waiting to go across the road, the carts, [chuckle] that looks like a Council cart (Q: Really?) emptying the dustbins or maybe clearing up the road, you know. (Q: Oh, yes.) You know, that time of day when I was a lad like that, we had any snow, we didn’t have about three or four men worked on the Council then, they always come round, scraping the snow all off the paths and they had these, tumbrils we called them, come along, shovel all the snow away and cart it away. (Q: Really?). They don’t even blow it off the paths now do they?
Q: So what would people do with, you say they might be collecting the rubbish, what would people do with the rubbish, oh, you mean on the paths (Mr P: On the paths, yes) What did people do with their own rubbish those days?
Mr P: Oh, they’d take it down the sewerage farm. [probably meaning what the Council carts got] (Q: Oh, they had to take it did they?) Anything they used to collect they take it down the sewerage farm. (Q: Still I suppose people didn’t have so much did they?) Oh, Green’s they’ve got there, chemist, yes, remember that [off the left edge, no.64]
Q: Did you used to have to go shopping? When you were a kiddy did they send you out shopping and things?
Mr P: No, mother done most of it, I s’pose if she wanted anything, you know, we used to go and get it, and it used to make me laugh because if anybody said would, ask them to go and get something from the shop, mother always used to say ‘Don’t you take anything!’ (Q: Really?) [Laugh] Always said that. [Laugh] [Looking at more photos]
Oh, yes, Bradshaw’s [extreme left. lots of awnings, now no. 72], that was a clothing shop., Pluck’s, boot [on left, further up, awnings, name on wall, now no.68] and, I always remember that shop had a big window at the side and down the road, Guithavon Street when there, and they had shoes stand on stands and, big pane of glass we used to go and push the pane of glass and make the shoes move and shake ‘em off the, off the stands. [Laughter]
Q: Because, of course, the school was down there wasn’t it (Mr P: School down there), so you had to go past there [National School, now Guithavon Street car park]
Mr P: Yes, the school I went to. So, that’s the old Barclay’s bank there (Q: Oh, yea.) Used to be Barclays bank [on right, tall, second from edge, now no.61] (Q: Yes.) and that big house there was a doctor lived in that big one what’s the Midland bank now [just past Barclays, no.57]. (Q: Oh, I see.) A Doctor Coombe lived in there. I forget the name of the people who had Mondy’s shop then, that’s always been a whatsname, a hardware and ironmongers [on right edge, no. 63].
[pause, looking at another photo, above] Coker and Rice, they were furniture, used to make furniture and that [extreme left with clock, burnt down in 1910, now URC is behind]. That part, later on was the old Tory Club [upstairs?] (Q: Course, yes, that’s right, I thought I’d seen that before.) Coker and Rice had their yard and workshop over the road here, at the back of Parion Products that was [now no.67, not on photo] you know, that’s the estate agents now, isn’t it, up that yard between, up the baker’s side of Gilbert’s the bakers [now no.83] you go up there (Q: Oh, I know.) they had a big workshop up there. (Q: Did they?) That’s what we used to call the Brush Yard, because there was a brush workshop up there, they used to make brushes and things [between nos.67 and 83, not on photo]. The old dresses, look, and hats.
Q: I remember you telling me there was a lot of little cottages up those yards in those days, was there some up the Brush Yard as well?
Mr P: Yes, oh, yes, er several cottages up there and there were cottages all up, all nearly every yard in Witham. Yes. Bridge Street all, no end of cottages up yards and, and, then where Parion Products is now, their showground, you know, where they’ve got their caravans, there was cottages up there [now nos. 102-116, Newland Court, off left of photo]. Oh, dear, oh, dear, funny old place. (Q: Sorry, you were talking about the hats.) Yes, that used to be a pawnbrokers, remember that, Sammy Page [left side, small, behind the girls, now no.86], that used to be the post office [single storey with sun on end, now no.84]. (Q: Oh, I know yes.) Then this is called London House that what used to be, there was a grocers part of it just there, and next door was a place like drapery shop and all like that, you know [tall, right of PO and other small building, now nos.74-76]
Q: Did people go to the pawnbrokers a lot those days you reckon?
Mr P: Not a lot, you know, he used to buy second hand clothes and sell second hand clothes and that, Sammy Page his name was, but he was a pawnbrokers, but he never done much in the pawnbroking line in Witham, you know, that didn’t take on very well, (Q: What, you didn’t think people ….) only in the bigger towns where you get the pawnbroker used to do big business. [Pause] These are old aren’t they, (Q: Yes, they are, aren’t they?) very old. [Pause] Course, that’s where Holt is now, that place [behind left girl and small cart, now no.88] (Q: Yes.) This is all down, it’s all open there now where they, in front of the chapel wasn’t it? (Q: Yes, of course, that’s right, but I suppose you can remember that being there can you, the club? [i.e between 88 Newland Street and 90 Newland Street) Oh, yes, yes, yes. Yes, I remember when it was burnt down . London House, there y’are, look, drapery store, remember what I said [nos.74-76, see above]? (Q: Oh, yes, that’s right, you’re memory’s good isn’t it?) That used to be named Pilcher’s, they were more or less drapery, babies clothes and one, things like that, ribbons and all things like that, you know. Cor, this is an older one, yes, very old. See there’s clock there you see, always remember that big telegraph post there [outside no. 84, then post office] (Q: Really?) [Pause]
Q: The clothes are different aren’t they?
Mr P: We all used to wear them sort of clothes in, knickerbocker trousers come to the knee, little Norfolk jackets, you know [laugh] and hard collars, you used to wash them every day, you know, they, stiff stuff, celluloid stuff, you know, white.
Q: I wonder, where would your mother used to buy the clothes? Would you used to buy the clothes ready made or make …?
Mr P: She’d make most of them, make ‘em.
Q: What, your mother made them?
Mr P: Well, this is a later one ainnit? [looking at photo, see picture 2]. There’s the clock on there now, look. (Q: Oh, yes, that’s right, yes.) A bank on the top. Mondy’s [on right, with goods on pavement]
. This is a later one, because there’s the old Silver End bus there, that used to run from Braintree to Silver End to Silver End to Witham, Crittall’s, owned by Crittall’s. (Q: Oh, I never heard of that, oh, I’ve never noticed that, let’s have a look.) Yes, that’s the Silver End bus [extreme left]. (Q: I never noticed that one there, yes.) Yes. (Q: That was just for people to go to work mainly?)
Doctor’s , still the doctor’s, that was the doctor’s then, I don’t know when, it ain’t got no date on it [now no.129]. (Q: It hasn’t, no). The old horse and cart , look, looked like a Council cart, quite possible. Now, that er, when we moved out of Eagle Yard we moved into this house here  [probably now no.116, since demolished, next to 118]. That one there , it used to be a watch makers, that shop, little window there, the man’s name was Graves [now no.118].
And that  was a sweet shop, people named, well, that was a lodging house and sweet shop, they used to take in people that want lodgings, Darby was their name [next to the Poulters’]. (Q: I see.) And then that’s part of it there, well that’s the next one [next to Darby, with gable]  there’s a door just there, old Jim Porter, he was a plumber and all done all plumbing work and that, well he was a fireman as well, but he died with the DTs. He used to drink a lot. They used to in them days, the old tradesmen didn’t they?
That house there, called the Gables, the doctors were all born in that house [right of pic, with gables, left of  now nos.125 and 127], Doctor Gimsons, under these sister[?], when they took over this places, the doctors, first of all they were up at that place now, little higher up was the doctors first of all, Doctor Gimsons, the two doctors, that was that big house, you know the Co-op, then there’s a pair of big houses there. (Q: Oh, I know, big, very tall ones, they’ve been empty for a bit.) Yes, that’s right, well the one nearest towards here was the one that was the doctors [now no.119]. (Q: Oh, I didn’t know that, yes. I thought they’d been there all the time) And then they, for some reason, I don’t know why they moved out of that, anyway, they went into this place here [no.129, extreme right of pic] and the doctors’ sister lived in that Gables. (Q: Yes, I see.) She married a man named Mr Brandt.
Bottom of Newland Street, south side, as discussed below.
Q: So, you say they were born in the Gables (Mr P: The Gables, yes), they all lived there?
Mr P: As far as I can remember about it, you know. That’s the [present] doctors house, this one [extreme right, now no.129] , some poor, I forget the name of the old lady what lived in that one, that smallish, lower house there [left of the Gables, now no.121], but this tall one there [left of 121, tall, sun on side, set back, now no.119], that’s the one that was the doctors. Then the other one there [left of 119, same height, now no.117], a Mr Beadle lived in that, and then of course there was the Co-op [now no.115] and next to the Co-op is a big house that a Miss, Misses Pattisson lived there [now no.113, Pelican House, corner of Kings Chase], there were two lad-, two Miss Pattissons and a brother, well then they moved out of that and went into Collingwood Road, the one where Mr Sparrow lives now [now no.16 Collingwood Road, Pelican Cottage]. (Q: Oh, really?) And, then the Co-op took that over and, they sort of made it a bigger shop [now no.113]. This is still an old, you can tell that by their dresses look, clothes.
Q: Did you used to, the Co-op was started then when you were small was it?
Mr P: The Co-op’s always been there as far as I can remember, way back when I was a little boy.
Q: Was the Co-op committee, I don’t suppose you can remember about, that ran the Co-op, was that quite strong in those days?
Mr P: Well, there’d be one or two running, but, of course, than that gradually built up and then you get more on the committee, used to be about two or three on it I suppose at that day.
[Looking at new photo, see above] And this is the top end of Bridge Street. Now, you see, these are almshouses here [row, on left, behind gas lamp, was 50-58 Bridge Street, now demolished]. (Q: I think they were just about there when we first came.) Yes, I should imagine. Now, that one there, my grandmother lived there and she died in that one. (Q: Goodness, what’s that, the third one along? [probably no.54] I used to know all the old ladies what lived in there, and then coming down here there was more cottages here, and then there was a butcher’s shop there, what’s now that motor cycle shop [now no.30, past the almshouses]. (Q: Oh, I see.) Not the big building, the one at the side, there’s a little low window, like a shop window at the side, well that used to be a butcher’s shop and he used to have a slaughter house at the back. (Q: Really?)
Now, that house there, people named Fenner lived in there. [right foreground; William Fenner was at 81 Bridge Street in 1925 electoral register] Do you know, do you ever go to the butcher’s round St Nicholas Road, do you know a Mr Fenner in there, well, he, ‘cause he only works part-time (Q: Oh, I think I know who you mean, yes), short, fat man, well, he was, he was born in there, I’m sure he was, they lived in there.
This is Bridge Street. (Q: There were a lot more houses there in those days weren’t there?) And just behind this house [i.e. round corner to right, in Howbridge Road] there’s a wheelwrights shop, the man used to make wheels for, for carts or anything in that line, farm wagons and that and then they used to make the wheels and take ‘em down to, more often than not, down to blacksmith’s near the Crotchet you know where the Crotchet is, used to be next door to that, the blacksmith’s shop [now 130 Newland Street], they used to make the tyres there and heat them in the, they’d got a thing, big metal plate on the back with a spike in the middle, used to make these tyres, steel tyres in the fire, bend ‘em round, got them singing[?] away, you put them, big rollers at the back of the shop, make the tyres and get them hot, get ‘em red hot, and weld it into the ring, make it round, get it round, then go and lay this wooden wheel over this big iron plate, put the tyre on, hammer it on, then put water on to cool it down.
Q: So kids would go and watch that?
Mr P: Oh, yes, oh we used to go and watch them shoe the horses.
[Looking at new photo] There’s another one of Bridge Street the other way, the old cottage used to stick out there [with gable, next to 9 Bridge Street], course, that’s all pulled down now, and there’s the Morning Star there [21 Bridge Street], well, of course that’s all back now, then the George and Dragon just there, just a way up [29 Bridge Street].
Q: That was different, wasn’t it?
Mr P: Course those places still stand there. Ah, now I do know this [looking at new photo. When we moved out of there [116 Newland Street] , we went into that one there  [147 Newland Street].
Q: Really? What, the one this end, next to the little …?
Mr P: This one . This one, what’s Key’s now, that hasn’t altered at all, has it [151 Newland Street]? But this is all down, that  used to be Glover’s the cycle shop [149 Newland Street] (Q: Really?). Cycle, motor, he was the first man in Witham to have a motor car, Joe Glover. Well, then we went into this place , (Q: Next to it?). there’s three windows there, two doors, it was a double house, we took that on [147 Newland Street].
That’s  a little grocer’s shop called Wood, the old man used to, Wood, he was a funny old boy he was [145 Newland Street]. That  used to be Sorrell’s the butcher’s with the shade out [143 Newland Street].
The old Globe Inn [6, on the left], well, course, that hasn’t been a pub for a long, long while, that’s a aquarium shop now, fishes, fish and all like that [132 Newland Street] (Q: That’s right, yes).
There’s  the blacksmith’s shop look (Q: Oh, yes) there, that little black one [130 Newland Street] (Q: Little one), and  the Crotchet. And that one there  is still what’s part of, part of Coates now, that’s called the Blue Post house, it used to be the coaching house, there’s a big yard at the side where they used to pull in to change the horses there, for the coaches to go through from London, Colchester and London [128 Newland Street; was Blue Posts in 19th century; so this is from what Charlie has heard, not his memories]
Q: They still did that when you were in there, did they?
Mr P: Mail coaches.
Q: Was it an inn or did they just use it as well, was it a pub as well?
Mr P: No, wasn’t a pub. The Crotchet, that one, then the Swan back here. Well then, where you see that board , that was a lodging house called the Carpenter’s Arms, see that board hanging out there [141 Newland Street]? (Q: I know, sticking out just near that little car?) By the side of the butcher’s.
Q: What sort of people would stop in the lodging house?
Mr P: Well, roadsters, or people used to come pea picking, you know, in the summer time (Q: Of course, yes.) pea picking and that and used to stop there the night. We’ve got, one, there’s two people in Witham now who used to be one of, of the family that used to lodge there, when they come into Witham pea picking, then they settled in Witham. (Q: I see.)
Q: Did you used to have to go out working like that when you were young?
Mr P: Oh, we used to go in, in the fruit fields. (Q: Did you?) We used to walk to, just this side of Hatfield Peverel, picking fruit, in the summer time, we used to do that to earn our clothes for the winter. (Q: I see, yes.) We used to leave home, we start 6 o’clock in the morning in the field[?], used to leave home about 5 o’clock, get up about quarter to five and get ready and start walking up, you see, no transport in them days [laugh], we used to walk there and get, we used to pick, there was strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants, gooseberries, and there used to be little strawberries called scarlets, they were, used to put them in tubs and take ‘em away, go to the jam factory, make jam, but the big strawberries, you know, like what you buy today in the shops, they, they were bought, well, people used to buy them for sort, of, fruit for lunch or tea time, like that.
Q: So that was, what, in the summer holidays?
Mr P: Yes, when we had the six weeks holidays, ‘cause we used to have, used to have Whitsun, Easter, Whitsun, there was no half term in those days, we used to have Good Friday, and the Monday, Good Friday, Saturday, Sunday and the Monday, and Whitsun used to be just the Sunday and the Mon-, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and then in the summer time we used to have six weeks holiday, er late June to August time, so we had the six weeks anyway. Then September we had a week off, what they called blackberrying holiday, whether it was for blackberrying or not I don’t know and that’s the only one we had, and we had Christmas, a few days for Christmas.
Q: So they didn’t ever take you off school to go fruit picking?
Mr P: Oh, oh, no, no. Oh, that sort of thing wasn’t thought of in those days, taking time off, you know, oh, no you daren’t take time off, you’d soon have the school inspector round after you. Yes, I em, I don’t remember ever having any time off from school, only when I was perhaps, had measles or mumps or anything like that. I had a half a day when my father died, that’s all. Apart from illness, you know.
Q: When did your father die? You were still at school?
Mr P: My father? Nineteen hundred and eleven.
Q: What was his first name?
Mr P: Er, Thomas.
Q: Oh, right, so if I read about him I’ll know who he was. So what was your mother’s first name?
Mr P: Er, Emily.
Q: Did she live longer than him?
Mr P: Oh, yes, well he died in nineteen hundred and eleven and I was only about nine and a half then, and he was 64, he went into hospital for an operation for gall stones and er, operated, but they couldn’t do nothing and he just died. But today that’s just nothing is it, gall stones. And, of course, mother wasn’t so old as him, of course, there weren’t no dole and no relief or anything as today. (Q: I was going to say, how did she manage?) My mother used to take in washing and, one thing and another, try and make ends meet. Well, we did have a, a horse and a cart and had a greengrocery round, we used to, you know where the fire station is, up the Hatfield Road? (Q: The new one? Yes.) Well we had, my father had a bit of ground up there, further back from the road, about three acres, we used to grow a lot of vegetables there, and we used to go round, my brother used to go round selling em on the, twice a week on the Wednesday and Saturday, course I used to go round with em Saturday.
Q: He was older than you was he? Your brother was older than you?
Mr P: Oh, yes, yes, he’d left school then.
Q: What was his name?
Mr P: Er, it was Thomas. (Q: He was Thomas as well, so he was living at home but …) Oh, yes (Q: So he could help out?) there was five of us at home then (Q: Was there?). When my father died. Mother had a terrible job to make ends meet, well, they did in those days didn’t they, people used to, have to make clothes and repair their old ones and one thing and another.
Q: Was there no, I was just thinking was there sort of charity or relief of any sort at all if you were desperate, what would happen?
Mr P: Well there was a Poor Law relief then in those days but, what it was it was, well, mother never tried for it, she, you know, she said that was charity, she didn’t believe in charity [laugh]. A lot of the old people today don’t, do they? In fact, when she was, when we lived in Cressing Road, when I lived further up [Charlie at 111 Cressing Road], she lived down the bottom end, she, only getting ten bob a week then, pension, old age pension. And I got on to her about getting some more help from people at Braintree, you know, social security, but oh she stormed, she didn’t want charity, I said ‘It’s not charity’, I said, ‘you pay for it’, anyway I got a man to come and, he come and see her, and he said we’ve granted your mother some more money, and one thing and another. Only thing, at that time of the day I was out of work, so he said ‘The committee would like to know how you’re gonna pay it back?’. I said ‘Not at all’. ‘What do you mean?’. I said ‘I’m not paying it back’. I said ‘This extra money you’re giving my mother’, I said ‘it’s been contributed for’. I said ‘And therefore’, I said ‘I’m not in a position of paying any of it back. I don’t intend to anyway’. He didn’t think much of that. [Laugh]
Q: So what work did you do, what age would you be when you left school?
Mr P: Thirteen.
Q: So what did you do then?
Mr P: I went, well for about a month, I went to , for about a month I went, em, work down, well, where part of the Bramston unit is now, was a market gardener, used to grow flowers and vegetables, tomatoes, cucumbers, and I worked there for a month, and I didn’t think much of that so, the man up the street here, next to (Q: Which one are we after?) no, not that one [looking through photos] a bit higher, the next one. Well here, that one there, not that one, that one there, he was a shoe maker, a Mr Eve, and I went there in 1915, 1915, to learn the trade, two bob a week. (Q: I see, what, they give you two bob or did you give them two bob!) Two bob a week to learn the trade that’s what I had in those days, and after I learned the trade I went to Hoffman’s, and at the end of, I was getting half a crown then, at the end of the time and er, course mother said, ‘Well perhaps, I think, wouldn’t be a bad idea if we got somewhere you could get more money’, of course, you know, a bit of a job. So my sister, who, older sister, she’s dead now, who worked at Hoffman’s, she got me a job there, half a crown, went to thirty-seven bob [Laugh]. We really, like a fortune in those days wasn’t it? Oh, dear.
Q: So that was just, so what did you do (Mr P: that was after the War [First World War) what did you do at Hoffman’s?
Mr P: On the machines, grinding machines.
Q: So how long did you stop there for?
Mr P: Oh, I suppose well I was there about [pause] couple of years, couple or three years, something like that, three, might have been four years, then I came back and er, [door bell rings, tape off and on] Come back, we lived, my mother lived there, you see, we lived there (Q: You were still living there, yes?) and em, my brother and me started up with a shoe repairing shop there.
Q: I see. And which was that brother, that was, not Thomas?
Mr P: Thomas. (Q: That was Thomas, oh, I see.) Well, though he didn’t know much about the trade, you see, he sort of helped. I was the tradesman. We used to do a lot of work there.
Q: Did you say your father ended up doing shoe …?
Mr P: No, no, not my father. He died. He, actually my father was a job master. Now, you’ll know, you’ll be like a lot of people, won’t know what a job master is. Well, a job master in those days was like a taxi proprietor today. Instead of having cars, they had horse and carriages, and he used to do weddings, funerals, parties out, because he used, he had a, what er, what you call a waggonette, that would be drawn by one horse and would hold about eight people. Well, then he also had a, what they call a brake which was a tall vehicle, used to be pulled by two, sometimes four, horses, which’d hold about .… [tape ends]
Mr P: …. biggish house just here isn’t there. It’s on Bridge Street, there’s nothing there now, because, I see, RAFA Club. (Q: Course, yes, that’s right.) Well, the other side of this road, Spinks Lane here, there’s a biggish house (Q: Oh, I know.) must be older[?] now, Poplar Hall (Q: Poplar Hall, yes.) That’s it, well he was go’ner buy that, course, property was cheap in those days, money he got in the bank. But when the bank, bank failed, the people in the know drew their money out, because you know what it was in those type of days, the people in the know don’t have it all, you know, they went the right way to work. But anyway, they got the money out, but course my father lost all his. (Q: Really? Did he ….) He also lost a valuable hunter horse that he owned, worth four hundred pounds in those days. Died for some reason, he thinks, well, we thought, he thought at the time that somebody ill treated it when it was out in the field, course he said they couldn’t find, the vet couldn’t find nothing wrong with it.
Q: So it was a hunter horse, so what would he keep that for, for people to … take out?
Mr P: He used to, let it out to people, you know, for hunting and that (Q: I see, yes, oh, dear.) Poor old boy, that’s what, that didn’t help him at all.
Q: He kept on with that trade till the end did he?
Mr P: He packed up this job mastering and then took on this piece of ground up the Hatfield Road and done, sort of, small holding like for vegetables and mostly vegetables and stuff like that – nothing big, you know, like corn or anything like that. Used to grow seeds for seed growers and that.
Q: So that was when you moved out of the Spread Eagle?
Mr P: That’s when we lived up this other house, here [116 Newland Street]. Course, he died there, well, died in hospital, but that’s where he was, we were, when he died, then after a year or two we moved down to this place [147 Newland Street]. That belonged to the man, this was [???] didn’t belong to anybody that, derelict place, pretty derelict, that belonged to Mr Ellis, well then, he bought that and bought this and after we went out it was all pulled down. Because all there is now is sheets of corrugated iron. (Q: Yes, they’ve still not built on it, have they?) No, never done nothing to it. You see, that property along there, that butcher’s shop it’s still there, the little general shop, the little grocer’s that’s not there but the butcher’s shop’s still there, they sell all sundries and stuff in there now [143 Newland Street], but, where all those houses there, that’s shops and that, but if they do build on it, that has to come down but they gotta go back, too close to the road. (Q: I’m with you, yes.) Not allowed to build on the same spot, they must go back.
Q: Did you ever go on any of these trips with your dad? When somebody hired the carts and things off your father, presumably did he have people working for him to take, did he have lots of people working for him to take them out?
Mr P: Oh, yes, he had men to drive his horse, but he was very conscious of cruelty to animals, you know, he caught a man thrashing one of his horses one day with a whip and he give him the sack, he I don’t do that, and he said you’re not going to do it. Oh, yes, he had what we called the stables, that was all the out buildings at the back of the White Hart. (Q: Did he really?) In the yard there used to be [???] stables and one thing and another, coach house and then he also had some stables in the Spread Eagle yard, and we lived there, he had some in there and some in the others.
Q: It was quite a big business, I wonder how it – was he a Witham person?
Mr P: He wasn’t actually born in Witham, born out of Witham. Course there used to be another job master in Witham then and if they had a big wedding or big do they used to sort of work in together, you know.
Q: I was wondering how – he must have done well to build up such a big business.
Mr P: Well, he, money, wasn’t much money about, before he took on this, he was a coachman for a big family somewhere in the area, I don’t know, I can’t remember all about that, but, my mother came from Braxted. (Q: I see.) Her father was a butcher.
Q: What was their name before she was married then?
Mr P: Cottee. (Q: Oh, I’ve heard that name, yes.) And he used to drink all his money away. (Q: What, her father?) All the old tradesmen used to in those days, used to drink like a fish, my mother’s father, but my old dad he never drunk a lot, for some reason he wasn’t a drinking man.
Q: Were there some parts of Witham those days regarded as poorer off than other parts?
Mr P: Oh, well, you got these where there’s mostly cottages, little cottages up yards, where the poorer people lived. We had moneyed people in Witham, you know, that odd house in Collingwood Road or, one or two big houses in the high street and up Newland Street further up, you know. Dr Payne who lived in what, High House as they called it what’s a restaurant now Hamilton’s [part of 5 Newland Street], then a Dr Combe that lived in the Midland bank [57 Newland Street] and I’m trying to think of the name of that – it’s got a name, but I can’t remember what that was. What is Barclay’s bank used to be, my Sunday school teacher used to live there, that’s got a name too, but it’s a job to think of all these things [59 Newland Street].
Q: That was the Church was it, not the …(Mr P: Church Sunday school, yes.) Church Sunday school, yes. Did you have to go to Church a lot?
Mr P: I used to have to go Sunday and Sunday afternoon, what they called Catechism or the afternoon perhaps up to Church House [Collingwood Road] when we was children, you know, go to Church House Sunday afternoon, Sunday morning the church. Course, every morning you had to go to school they had the religious service and singing in the morning always for about quarter of an hour. School was strict in those days. (Q: Was it?) You had a mind[?] and one thing and another.
Q: What happened if – were you well behaved at school?
Mr P: We had to be. (Q: You had to be, did you?) Don’t, you got the cane. [Laugh] Our old schoolmaster was very very strict, he was, Cranfield his name was [Charles Cranfield; Church School, Guithavon Street]. (Q: Oh, I’ve heard of him, yes.) You heard of him? (Q: Yes, lots of people speak about him.) He used to live in the house adjoined the school, and he used to like his whisky. (Q: Did he?) Always knew when he’d been out and whisky ‘cause he’d come back with his face all red. [Laugh]
Q: Where did he used to go to drink?
Mr P: In the house, he never seemed to go out. (Q: Oh, in the house, yes, I see.) We never see him go in a pub or anything.
Q: Did a lot of people drink in the house rather …? Actually, I’ll have to run now, won’t I?